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Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop GC. RN. (1895-1978)

Midshipman (on Repulse) 


Alexander Henry Maxwell-Hyslop GC. RN. (1895-1978)

Alexander Henry Maxwell Hyslop was born 25th May 1895, the son of Colonel Robert Maxwell Hyslop RE and his wife Emily Clara Brock. His father was a descendent of John Maxwell of Terraughty and the Hyslop family of Lotus and his mother was the sister of, Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Osmond de Beauvior Brock. He was educated at Rottingdean near Brighton and in 1907 he entered Osbourne Naval School moving on to Dartmouth Navel College at the age of 15.
Alexander went to sea as a Midshipman in 1913 just before Britain was plunged into the Great War. His first ship was HMS Centurion, but soon after the start of the war he was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Station at Polegate in Sussex. Here he served on four airships the, No 9, SS1, SS10 and the SS12. Alexander was a very fit, athletic young man and during the war he won the heavy-weight boxing championship of the Grand Fleet as a light heavy-weight. Later in the war he served on to HMS Africa,
HMS Repulse and HMS Revenge. After the war, now a Lieutenant, Alexander was stationed on Whale Island at the gunnery course and later served on HMS Ceres and HMS Furious. During the early 1920's, he led the Royal Navy rugby team's forwards for three years.
He married Cecelia Joan Bayly daughter of Bayly and had two sons Alexander Bayly and Robert John born at Ivybridge Devon, 6th June 1931. Lieutenant Maxwell Hyslop was further promoted and by 1929, he was a Lieutenant Commander serving as Gunnery Officer on board HMS Devonshire. In July of that year, there was a serious explosion on board as a result of which he was awarded the Albert Medal. His first command was HMS Laburnham on the New Zealand station in the Pacific in 1933. He returned to the United Kingdom in 1935 as Commander of the Boys Training Establishment, HMS Impregnable and promoted to Captain in 1938.
Returning to sea in 1939, he took command of HMS Durban at the outbreak of the second World War. He was captain of Destroyers at Devonport until 1941 and then spent the next three years on Arctic duties in command of HMS Cumberland, during which period he commanded Operations Gearbox 2 and 3, both part of the relief of Spitzbergen. In 1944 Captain Maxwell Hyslop assumed command of the battleship, HMS Nelson, which was involved in the bombardment of the Normandy landing area's fortifications. In the later part of 1944, Captain Maxwell Hyslop was ADC to King George VI. His last post, was as commander of the Naval Officers Selection station, HMS Raleigh at Torpoint.
He was invalided out of the Royal Navy in 1946 and retired to Par in Cornwall. There, he was the Chief Warden of the county's Civil Defence and later a District Councillor. In 1970, unbeknown to him, a petition was brought before the Queen, that the Albert Medal had lost it's significance in the public eye and that it was felt that the George Cross (of which the Albert Medal was the Naval equivalent) should be awarded to in its place. As part of this modification of honours and awards, the surviving Albert Medal holders went to Buckingham Palace in 1971 and the Queen exchanged their Albert Medals for George Crosses. Alexander's citation was read out as the paradigm citation. His Albert Medal was presented to HMS Excellent where it is on display. He anglicised his conjoined surname by Deed Poll in 1928 by adding a hyphen between the Maxwell and the Hyslop, this was to prevent confusion in English circles where the Scottish conjoined name is not wholly understood. In retirement, he sailed with the Fowey Yacht Club where he was vice-commodore, hunted with his two dogs and annually ploughed his 8 acre field at Prideaux until his death on 28th August 1978. A few years ago, Alexander's George Cross, was presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons by his son, Sir Robert J Maxwell-Hyslop, MP., and now forms part of the collection of Honours and Awards in the Houses of Parliament.

Adapted from Lieutenant Commander Maxwell Hyslop's Albert Medal Citation:

"HMS Devonshire was carrying out full calibre firing on 26th July 1929 when, at the first salvo there was a heavy explosion which blew off the roof of one of the turrets. Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell Hyslop was in the fore control when the explosion occurred, and immediately proceeded to the turret and climbed inside. He made a general examination of the turret, and descended the gun well through most dangerous conditions of fumes and smoke, necessitating the use of a life line, remaining in the turret until the emergency was over, directing arrangements for the safety of the magazine, and supervising the evacuation of the wounded. He was fully aware of the danger to himself from the results of cordite fumes, and the grave risk of further explosions. At the time this officer entered the turret the fire produced by the explosion was still burning and it was impossible to estimate the real state of affairs due to the heavy smoke. He was fully aware that there were other cordite charges in the hoist and handling room below which might ignite at any moment with almost certain fatal results to himself, and he deliberately endangered his own life to save the lives of others." (London Gazette: 19th November 1929)


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Information kindly provided by
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